Jokes about Geraldo Rivera, Al Capone’s vault, and even Jimmy Hoffa’s final resting place were flying, but several Maplewood citizens at the construction site formerly known as the Maplewood Post Office were mostly very serious about their task this morning.
Inside, construction workers were jackhammering the floor in search of a crawl space that could contain remnants of the former 1869-era schoolhouse that once occupied the site (and also functioned for a time as town hall) and/or other historical artifacts.
The workers were performing the search prior to beginning wholesale demolition of the mid-century building to make way for a new multi-story mixed use development that will house 20 apartments and five new retail spaces.
When Maplewood Mayor Vic DeLuca ventured in around 10:15 a.m., workers reported “just dirt so far.”
“We are looking for any pieces of the structure that may remain and any artifacts that may have been left at the site,” said Maplewood resident Inda Sechzer, who has led the charge to excavate the space. Developer Joe Forgione agreed to the special dig after Sechzer brought the issue directly to him.
Sechzer said that, after the Village Green left the site, “the crew cut a few more holes and found tamped soil. So the assumption is that the excavated soil for the basement at the rear was dumped into the front, where there was to be a crawl space per the drawings.”
A representative of the developer “said he would keep an eye [out] as they begin to demo the front of the building, which will likely be done first,” said Sechzer. “If anything in the soil raises a flag related to our interests — walls or artifacts, etc. he will contact me.”
Sechzer said that the developer and staff are taking the issue seriously.
Asked if she was disappointed by the lack of findings thus far, Sechzer said she was not: “We knew it was a long shot as to whether there would be anything at all. These things are interesting and fun…and sometimes stuff is found!”
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